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Oceanic Exploration - The Succulent Live Lobster, Crab, Giant Shrimp, Geoduck, Fish and More at Sea Harbour (Dinner) [Review] w/ Pics!

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exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 02:12 AM

(Formatted with All Pictures here:
http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2010/08...

In delivering some of the best Dim Sum in Southern California, Sea Harbour garners a lot of attention (and rightfully so). But there's been noticeably less consideration for its dinner service over the years, probably due to a variety of factors, but most notably the premium price tag. For myself, over the past ~4 years of eating at Sea Harbour for dinner, it's been the slightly inconsistent quality of some of their dishes (their Live Seafood has always been great) that has left me less enthused than I normally would be for a restaurant of this caliber. It had been a good 8+ months since I last returned to Sea Harbour, but thanks to the repeated, strong recommendations from Chowhound veteran ipsedixit, I decided to stop by for a visit recently and found a completely reinvigorated menu and kitchen.

Since Day 1, Sea Harbour has staked its reputation on delivering high-quality, premium Hong Kong-style Cantonese Cuisine, even though the location may not seem to match its aspirations (they're situated where the old Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour used to be on Rosemead). Over the years, ordering anything that doesn't involve Live Seafood has resulted in some great dishes, some average dishes and a few misses as well. Their menu began to look really mundane and beaten down (literally - they hadn't replaced their menus in years, with crossed out prices, etc.), but on a recent visit, they've completely revamped their menu (with gorgeous layouts) and dropped the majority of the non-Live Seafood items (which is a good thing). The new menu is more focused and apparently they ship off their kitchen staff to their main branch in Zhongshan, China (just across from Hong Kong), where they train with Executive Chef Ho Hui Dong once a year.

(Note: This is a comprehensive review of my multiple visits over the past 4 years at Sea Harbour.)

(Note 2: All English romanizations of Chinese dish names are spelled phonetically to help with pronunciation; thanks to my SGV Hounds for translation help. :)

The interior is brightly lit and nicer than most San Gabriel Valley eateries, but even with their recent remodeling, they aren't going to be winning any restaurant design awards anytime soon; there's still a strange choice of decor in various parts of the restaurant. But it's pleasant enough, and you're treated to a wall of fish tanks, showcasing the variety of Live Seafood they're selling for that day.

Sea Harbour offers a variety of down-to-earth, traditional Cantonese dishes if you're in the mood, with their Jiao Yen Hsien Yoh (Fried Squid in Salty Chili) being a good example.

It's a slightly thick, crunchy batter, with a salty brininess and notes of Green Onions and hot Chilies complementing each bite. The Squid has been cooked just right each time I've ordered it over the years; a solid rendition of this classic dish.

Another humble dish that the kitchen gets right is the Tsong Tsai Zheng Rou Bing (Marinated Ground Pork Steamed with Preserved Vegetables).

The Ground Marinated Pork isn't too dense, with a pleasant, hearty, savory quality. The Preserved Vegetables impart a fragrant, salty-tart undertone that helps to break up the flavors of the Steamed Ground Pork. Delicious. :)

Although sometimes, Sea Harbour's aim to elevate dishes doesn't always work out, as in their Mei Tsai Rou Song Zheng Tsai Dahn (Ground Meat Steamed with Salted Vegetables).

The dish tastes like it looks: Two distinct, disparate parts, with the Steamed Ground Pork with Preserved Vegetables tasting similar to the previous dish and simply sitting on top of Boiled Chinese Mustard Greens.

One of the best values on the menu that shows some of the elegant simplicity of the kitchen is their Hsieh Rou Yu Du Geng (Fish Maw and Crab Meat Soup).

It's a light, thick soup, with chunks of Crab and Fish Maw cooked with Eggs in a Homemade Chicken Broth. It's lightly oceanic, warming and the notes of White Pepper perk up each bite perfectly. :) (Note: Don't forget to add a touch of Red Rice Vinegar if you enjoy a little tartness to the savory soup.)

Another homely, classic dish is their Jiao Yen Rou Pai (Spicy Salted Pork Chops).

You're immediately hit with the aroma of Deep Fried Garlic and Chilies, which transitions to crispy, crunchy satisfying bites of Deep Fried Pork Chops. :) The only problem is that over the years, the kitchen has been inconsistent with this dish. Sometimes, it's spot-on, while other times, it tastes overcooked and/or muted. They have since removed this dish from the menu (with their new menu revamp), but can make it upon request.

Next up is their Bai Guo Fu Zhu Yoh Tsai (Gingko Nuts Sauteed with Tofu Skin and Chinese Flowering Cabbage).

This is another dish that feels less well-integrated than it should be, with silky, slippery layers of Tofu Skin pairing fine with the Yoh Tsai vegetables, but clashing with the bitter, pungent Sauteed Gingko Nuts.

On the first of my recent visits (after the revamped menu), there's a noticeable change, even in the staff and service: As we're seated, we're asked what kind of tea we'd like (in previous visits, we oftentimes had to ask for a certain tea, otherwise we were just given a generic blend). You can choose from Chrysanthemum, Pu-Erh, Jasmine, Asphodel, Iron Goddess of Mercy or Ju Bu (a combination of Chrysanthemum and Pu-Erh Teas). We opted for Chrysanthemum Flower Tea for this visit. :)

We're also provided an amuse bouche of Simmered Lotus Root, which is crisp, earthy and exhibits an irresistible snap. :)

So with the new, retooled menu, the focus is squarely (and should be) on the variety of Seafood dishes, especially their Live Seafood. One of the highlights is their Live Lobster, which can be prepared in a variety of new and classic ways (11 styles total!): Lobster Fruit Salad, Lobster Sashimi, Stewed with Garlic and Chinese Rice Wine, Baked with Cheese and Cream, Baked with Superior Stock, Sauteed with Egg Whites, Wok Fried with Spicy Sauce, Pan Fried with Salt & Chilies, Pan Fried with Salt & Chilies Hong Kong Style (Bi Fohng Tahng), In a Rice Soup, or Fried with Green Onions and Ginger.

We usually opt for Live Lobster, Fried with Green Onions and Ginger, which is excellent, lightly sauced, and the Lobster has consistently been cooked just through, vibrant and juicy. :) Live Lobster, Sauteed with Egg Whites is a lot lighter, but still delicious, for those wanting to enjoy just the pure essence of the Lobster.

But as much as I enjoy Lobster, it just pales in comparison to my all-time favorite preparation of Shrimp: Bai Zuo Hsia (Poached Live Giant Shrimp (listed as "Prawns" on the menu)).

It's another market price item that you order by the pound (in half pound increments if you so desire), and there's nothing else like them. It's poached in its shell, so you have to peel them yourself, but it's *so* worth it. (^_^)

After peeling away the shell, you gently dip the Poached Live Shrimp into their Light Soy Sauce-based dipping sauce laced with Green Onions and Chili and you've got near-perfection! It's meatier, more tender and naturally sweeter than Lobster; delicious! (^_^) Over the past 4 years, the kitchen has always been consistently great with this dish. It's easily my favorite Live Seafood item at any Hong Kong / Cantonese Seafood restaurant. :) And if you're lucky and get some of the Live Shrimp with Shrimp Roe, it becomes even more amazing. :)

Part of the refocusing of the menu at Sea Harbour is one of the smartest changes I've seen at any of the Hong Kong-style Cantonese restaurants: Requiring their Half and Whole Chicken dishes to be ordered in advance (1 day notice). This allows the kitchen to finally serve consistently *fresh* Roasted or Fried Chickens without the cost-cutting measures plaguing most local restaurants serving these dishes (namely, serving leftover Chickens (tasting like it's 1-2 days old, reheated)).

Sea Harbour has now focused on 3 specialty Chicken dishes that require 1 day advance notice to order, and we decide to try their Bao Wong Ji, which is a Poached Free-Range Chicken served with a Wok-Fried Light Soy Sauce, Ginger, Green Onions and Cilantro.

The use of Huang Mao Ji (literally Yellow Feather Chicken (Free Range Chicken)) can be off-putting to some who are used to a fattier, looser Chicken meat. The Huang Mao Chicken's meat is denser, tighter and leaner, but it tastes so fresh (since it's made for your table's order only), and vibrant. Even the Chicken Breast portion is juicy and moist. Excellent! :)

Not every new dish on the menu is a winner, unfortunately, like their Ching Jie Tsao Zhu Jing Rou (There is no English name listed on the menu, but it's essentially Pork Neck Meat Sauteed with Asparagus).

The actual Pork Neck Meat and Asparagus are of good quality. Everything tastes fresh, but it also tastes very straightforward and one note.

One of my favorite vegetable dishes might very well be their Zhu Sheng Bai Tsai Dahn (Bamboo Pith Sauteed with Bok Choy).

While I enjoy the classic pure vegetables sauteed with a bit of Garlic (they usually have a selection of 3 - 6 varieties of fresh vegetables available that day), having their Bok Choy sauteed with Bamboo Pith just makes a good vegetable dish even better. :) For those that've never tried Bamboo Pith, it's slightly springy and spongy (in good way), and has a unique mouthfeel. It provides a playful textural contrast with whatever Vegetable it's paired with, and in the case of the lightly sauteed Bok Choy, it becomes the perfect foil.

Continuing on, the Hai Hsien Tsao Mien (Assorted Seafood with Fried Crispy Noodles) arrive next.

The dish arrives with Shrimp, Squid, Scallops and Rock Cod atop a bed of Chow Mein using thin Egg Noodles. The Noodles are a bit too wet and soggy in the center, but the rest of the Noodles are deliciously crispy and crunchy. The Scallops, Squid, Rock Cod and Shrimp are all cooked just right, with a pleasing tenderness.

Perhaps the ultimate celebratory, special occasion dish at most Hong Kong-style Cantonese restaurants is a restaurant's Shark Fin Soup. I haven't found a great Shark Fin's Soup in So Cal, so I'm curious how Sea Harbour's turns out. With their new menu, Sea Harbour serves Shark Fin in a variety of ways, atop fresh Papaya, or the new Pan Fried Shark's Fin with Black Truffles (at $70 per person). But my guests and I decide on their purest presentation: Hohng Shao Da Bao Chi (Braised Premium Shark's Fin in Brown Sauce).

It thankfully turns out to be far less ostentatiously presented than the gaudy, fake gold bowls at Elite, and upon taking the first sip... leagues better. Shark Fin is mainly cartilage, so there's very little inherent taste. As a result, a great Shark Fin Soup is all about the quality of the Soup it's presented in. The Soup has a fragrant aroma and a delicate, balanced savoriness with a slight ocean breeze.

The Shark Fin itself is of excellent quality, a thick meaty texture and the Bean Sprouts are cooked through which is nice touch after the disaster at Elite. Overall, a solid rendition of Shark Fin Soup, and the best version I've found so far locally, but still a distant third compared to the Shark Fin Specialists I tried in Hong Kong and Taipei.

For Clam lovers, their Jio Tsai Hua Rou Fa Tsao Ge Rou (Clams Sauteed with Pork and Chinese Chives) turns out to be a pleasant surprise.

There's an enticing brininess from the Clams, balanced by the slivers of Fatty Pork and refreshing Chinese Chives. The use of Red and Green Chilies adds a mild spiciness with a slow burn, which makes this dish even more enjoyable.

Another surprise dish is their Hai Shen Bei Gu Uh Zhang Bao (Braised Sea Cucumber, Goose Web, Chinese Mushrooms Casserole).

The Sea Cucumber is light and pliable, yet still retains enough meaty firmness to give it a satisfying chew. The Braising Sauce shows restraint and is well-balanced, not too salty nor overpowering.

But it's the Braised Goose Web (Goose Feet) that are the biggest surprise. I enjoy Goose when I can find it at local restaurants, but the Goose Web reminds me of just how much deep, genuine Poultry flavor Goose meat can exhibit. There are a lot of bones, but the Goose Skin, bits of meat and Cartilage are wonderful. :)

One of Sea Harbour's greatest strengths is their Live Fish (but also their most expensive item on the menu depending on the type (after Live King Crab)). They usually stock 2 or 3 types of Fish, depending on supplies, but most of the time it's Live Tilapia, Live Red Cod and Live Australian Grouper. You should always check with your server to see what the market price is for a Live Fish if you're going to order one, to prevent sticker shock. While Sea Harbour's other prices seem fair, their Live Fish prices exceed even Elite's prices, with Live Australian Grouper selling for a whopping $79 per pound (with a 2 pound minimum, and many times, their fish can run 3+ pounds); paying ~$240 for 1 fish dish is a bit extreme.

I usually go with their Ching Zheng Hohng Bahn (Steamed Red Cod with Green Onion and Cilantro) at $30 per pound.

Tied with the Poached Live Shrimp as one of my favorite dishes would have to be Hong Kong-style Cantonese Steamed Fish. :) There's nothing better than tasting, succulent, flaky, bright chunks of very fresh Fish (live just minutes earlier), and Sea Harbour's version is flawless. :) The Red Cod is firm, yet supple, and beautifully matched with their wok-fried Light Soy Sauce, Green Onions and Cilantro. Add this atop some Steamed Rice and you have one of the most delicious bites in town. (^_^)

The nice thing about ordering a larger Live Fish, is that you get the option to have the Fish Head prepared as a separate dish. On one visit, we have them prepare it as a Sha Guo Yu Toh (Fish Head Casserole (in Clay Pot)).

They deep fry chunks of the Red Cod Fish Head, and quickly braise it with Tofu, Ginger, Garlic and Green Onions. While there's not a lot of meat in the Fish Head chunks, there's a lot of flavor, and the Tofu and Braising Liquid make it all the more satisfying. :)

Another winner is their Sheng Zha Miao Ling Guh (Deep Fried Tender Squab), which requires a 1 day advanced notice.

Presented on an adorably cheesy, heart-shaped platter, our 2 Squabs taste fresh, with a delightful, slightly crisped skin. The Squab meat also has a light gaminess which makes it more distinct and appetizing.

We also order their Suan Rohng Tsao Lu Shwun (Asparagus Sauteed with Garlic) to balance out all the meat dishes. :)

It's cooked just right, with a good firmness in the Sauteed Asparagus.

We finish up with another outstanding dish: Hsiang Bah Bahng (Live Geoduck, Sashimi Style).

Their Live Geoduck can be prepared a variety of ways (like all their Live Seafood): Sashimi, Flash Soaked, Poached, Scalded Oil, Wok Fried with Ginger, or in a Soup. The "head" of the Geoduck can be prepared Fried with Salt & Chilies, Stir Fried with Preserved Vegetables or in a Rice Soup.

Over the years, I've found that I enjoy a Sashimi style the most, which is what we ordered here. Sea Harbour's execution of Geoduck Sashimi is excellent. The Live Geoduck is really bright, clean with a slight crunch and inherently sweet. It's gorgeous on its own, without any need to dab it in the provided Soy Sauce and Wasabi. :)

The 2nd preparation for the Geoduck "Head" is a bit disappointing though: Jiao Yen Hsiang Bah Bahng (Geoduck Fried in Salt & Chili).

The Fried Garlic Chips mixed in with each bite of the Geoduck meat is undeniably delicious, but it's just way too salty, making it nearly inedible. It's probably the only dish I've had at Sea Harbour that was this overpowering.

Service during dinner at Sea Harbour has been decent. It's fine for a standard Chinese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, but in presenting itself as a premium, quality establishment, their service still has room to improve. When showing up for a banquet / party, the service is usually very good, with multiple servers checking in on the table, clearing plates promptly and providing new ones, etc. On some occasions, though, the service can be a bit slow at times, and you'll find yourself waving to get any server's attention to tend to your needs.

Prices range dramatically from ~$10.50 - Market Price (the highest I've seen is the $79 per pound for the Live Australian Grouper), with most Non-Live Seafood items in the ~$13 - 15 range. Our average cost per person has also fluctuated dramatically, all depending on what you order. On some visits (with no Live Seafood items), it can fall in the ~$25 per person (including tax and tip) range, while if you want to go all out with Live King Crab, Live Lobster, Shark Fin Soup, etc., you can easily get into the $200+ per person range.

Sea Harbour represents one of Southern California's best Hong Kong-style Cantonese Seafood restaurants. With the newly revamped menu, removal of many dishes that didn't work, and a better focus on quality above all else, there's much to celebrate at this San Gabriel Valley gem. While the execution could still use some polish (for their Non-Live Seafood items), it's the best we have in So Cal, and with their top notch preparations for Live Seafood (especially the Poached Live Giant Shrimp, Steamed Live Fish and Live Geoduck), and advanced order items like their Deep Fried Tender Squab, any of their 3 Whole Free-Range Chicken dishes, and more, Sea Harbour has firmly re-established itself as the go-to restaurant for a great Hong Kong-style Cantonese Seafood dinner.

*** Rating: 8.2 (out of 10.0) ***

Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant (Hai Gahng Dah Jio Loh)
3939 N. Rosemead Blvd.
Rosemead, CA 91770
Tel: (626) 288-3939

Hours: [Dinner] 7 Days A Week, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

-----
Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

 
 
 
 
  1. e
    exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 02:14 AM

    Attaching more Pics. For all remaining Pictures, please see Link in the Original Post above. Thanks!

     
     
     
     
    1. J.L. Aug 12, 2010 02:33 AM

      You are reading my mind exile! I am about to go to Sea Harbour next week!

      2 Replies
      1. re: J.L.
        e
        exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 10:05 AM

        Hi J.L.,

        Nice! :) Please report back and let us know how it turns out.

        Oh, and they have the "buddha jumping over wall" soup you're looking for with the new Sea Harbour menu: $120 for 4 servings. :)

        -----
        Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
        3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

        1. re: exilekiss
          J.L. Aug 12, 2010 11:31 AM

          ... thus my reason for the pilgrimage...

      2. hnsbmg Aug 12, 2010 04:34 AM

        Another great review, EK. You bring to mind the fabulous steamed fish -- angelically white -- that I once had in Kowloon. Although it was cooked and served whole, it had the delicate texture of the lightest possible French quenelle, or perhaps even a pudding. Your steamed fish seemed to have a delicate but more-substantial texture (since it broke into flakes) -- is that correct?

        Also, I've never had asparagus sauteed with garlic. Was that in the usually very garlicky style of green (or long) beans with garlic? The latter can be great because garlic is a good match for the slightly bitter taste of the beans, but I can't picture much-milder asparagus in this kind of preparation. Or was the garlic very light -- perhaps sauteed whole first and then removed before the asparagus was added?

        1 Reply
        1. re: hnsbmg
          e
          exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 10:10 AM

          Hi hnsbmg,

          Thank you. :) I loved the various Steamed Fish I had in Kowloon / Hong Kong as well. :) "Yes," the Red Cod used here is more substantial and meatier than the texture you're describing. It all depends on the type of fish used. I haven't tried the Live Australian Grouper yet, so maybe that may be more delicate.

          A good quality Grey Sole has a more delicate, airy texture like what you're describing, but they're usually shipped in frozen at local restaurants.

          Re: Asparagus - Yah, outside of Hong Kong / Cantonese restaurants, I usually don't find Asparagus Sauteed with Garlic, but Sea Harbours is quite delicate. They use the Garlic sparingly (unless you request "extra Garlic" if you're a Garlic Fiend :). They also make it with Fermented Black Beans and Garlic (another popular preparation); that one is a bit more overpowering, which is why I prefer the simple Garlic prep.

          Let us know if you end up going. :)

        2. ipsedixit Aug 12, 2010 09:30 AM

          Most people don't realize that Sea Harbour, like many of the other Hong Kong style banquet restaurants, are really much much better with their dinner menu than with dim sum. This includes of course the aforementioned Sea Harbour, as well as places like Elite, Empress Harbor, Ocean Star, etc.

          -----
          Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
          3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

          37 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit
            e
            exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 10:12 AM

            Hi ipsedixit,

            Thank you for prodding me to go back after a slight hiatus. :) I really like what they've done with the new menu and dishes. :)

            Yah, great point: All the Hong Kong Cantonese Seafood restaurants' anchor is usually their dinner menu.

            BTW, have you ever had the Sea Turtle Soup at Sea Harbour? I'm curious how that tastes.

            1. re: exilekiss
              Servorg Aug 12, 2010 10:41 AM

              "BTW, have you ever had the Sea Turtle Soup at Sea Harbour? I'm curious how that tastes."

              If that is the case (that they are serving sea turtle) it's obvious they haven't heard about or learned anything from the recent experience of the (no longer in business) Hump restaurant in Santa Monica and it's whale meat debacle.

              1. re: Servorg
                J.L. Aug 12, 2010 11:32 AM

                Eat it before it goes extinct.

                1. re: J.L.
                  Servorg Aug 12, 2010 11:35 AM

                  If the "Save the Whale" folks get wind of this I'm betting that the restaurant achieves extinction before the sea turtle population does.

                  1. re: Servorg
                    J.L. Aug 12, 2010 05:35 PM

                    Don't worry - they use farmed turtles.

                    1. re: J.L.
                      Servorg Aug 12, 2010 06:20 PM

                      Farmed sea turtles? Are those pens next to the farmed whale pens?

                      See (or Sea?): http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/wildlife...

                      1. re: Servorg
                        J.L. Aug 12, 2010 11:49 PM

                        Farmed turtles. I have reasons to believe the word "sea" is a typo on the menu. I think they're setting a trap for the PETA people...

                2. re: Servorg
                  e
                  exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 01:58 PM

                  Hi Servorg,

                  I don't want to get my facts mixed up, but to clarify:

                  1. It may not be sea turtle, but farmed turtles. I'm only guessing they're "sea turtles" since Sea Harbour and all these HK / Cantonese restaurants specialize in seafood, but... a question for all the Chinese Cuisine Hounds:

                  * Are the old-time Chinese Turtle Soups (I had it a couple times at my friends' families' kitchens when I was a kid) made with freshwater or ocean or farmed turtle?

                  2. It's not on the menu; but they used to have it and I think you can still special order it.

                  Thanks.

                  Edit:

                  3. Oh, and I saw some of these big Turtles at Hawaii Supermarket on Valley. Are those freshwater or farmed or sea?

                  1. re: exilekiss
                    K K Aug 12, 2010 03:08 PM

                    That's a good question. I recall in some Taiwanese soap dramedy that at the turtles used for the soups were referred to as "biang" or something like that, and were of the soft shell variety, and the vendor lady was snickering at the old dude who bought it as she thought he wanted to get lucky that night from making it into a soup...

                    1. re: exilekiss
                      ipsedixit Aug 12, 2010 03:59 PM

                      As far as I know all the sea turtles used in Chinese restaurants are farmed.

                      Also, one has to be careful, as is the case with "shark's fin" sometimes in "turtle soup" you get instead alligator meat.

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        b
                        buttermarblepopcorn Sep 12, 2010 10:24 PM

                        Quick question: I'm assuming the shark's fin soup served here is the real deal, hence the high price? If that's the case, I can't bring myself to dine at Sea Harbour; I am no activist by any stretch of the imagination but I do draw one line at shark fin. This would be a huge disappointment for me, as I'd been interested in trying their dim sum as well as dinner menu. Oh well.

                        1. re: buttermarblepopcorn
                          e
                          exilekiss Sep 12, 2010 11:46 PM

                          Hi buttermarblepopcorn,

                          Totally understand your stance. "Yes," unfortunately most authentic HK / Cantonese Seafood restaurants in the SGV (including Sea Harbour) serve "the real deal" for Shark Fin.

                          1. re: exilekiss
                            ipsedixit Sep 13, 2010 09:56 AM

                            They also offer fake ones upon request, or usually it's the cheapest sharks fin offering on the menu.

                            But if you are opting for faux version, I would suggest you just order another type of soup. There are so many good options on the menu, I don't think you should have to "settle" for a poser version of the real deal.

                            As an aside, the bigger concern is usually being charged for shark fin, but served a bowl of the faux kind ...

                          2. re: buttermarblepopcorn
                            raytamsgv Sep 13, 2010 10:42 AM

                            Don't bother with fake shark fin. Just go with another type of soup or dish.

                            1. re: raytamsgv
                              Servorg Sep 13, 2010 10:45 AM

                              I get the distinct impression it's not about soup choices other than shark fin. It seems to be about not patronizing restaurants that offer the choice of (authentic) shark fin soup on their menu.

                              1. re: Servorg
                                raytamsgv Sep 13, 2010 01:19 PM

                                Almost all dim sim places are really Cantonese seafood restaurants, so that may mean skipping them altogether. Those that aren't seafood restaurants usually don't serve good dim sum.

                                1. re: raytamsgv
                                  ipsedixit Sep 13, 2010 02:38 PM

                                  "Those that aren't seafood restaurants usually don't serve good dim sum."
                                  ___________________________________

                                  Short of places like Dim Sum Express and Yum Cha Cafe, are there any dim sum places that aren't Canto seafood restaurants?

                                  And, no, Mr. Chow's does not count.

                                  And Din Tai Fung (for the umpteenth time) is not a dim sum place.

                                  -----
                                  Dim Sum Express
                                  326 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    Porthos Sep 13, 2010 02:44 PM

                                    Does Jasmine Cafe count?

                                    1. re: Porthos
                                      ipsedixit Sep 13, 2010 03:01 PM

                                      I don't even think Mr. Chow would count Jasmine Cafe as serving dim sum (good or bad).

                                      -----
                                      Mr. Chow
                                      344 N. Camden Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                        2. re: exilekiss
                          J.L. Aug 12, 2010 05:36 PM

                          I confirm ipse's statement: All farmed. Just saw the signs for the turtles while I was buying some live botan ebi at Hawaii Supermarket last weekend!

                          1. re: J.L.
                            e
                            exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 06:19 PM

                            Thanks ipse, J.L., K K,

                            Phew! I didn't want this to turn into Hump 2: The Empire Strikes Back. Good to know. :)

                            1. re: exilekiss
                              J.L. Aug 12, 2010 11:50 PM

                              I'm actually more upset about Hawaii Supermarket's parking lot fruit juice stand not carrying sugarcane juice anymore. That sucks.

                              1. re: J.L.
                                s
                                suvro Aug 13, 2010 07:01 AM

                                That is terrible! One of the few places where we could get this drink! Did they say why they are not serving this anymore? Sugarcane sticks are still available, I believe.

                                1. re: J.L.
                                  e
                                  exilekiss Aug 13, 2010 10:50 AM

                                  Hi J.L.,

                                  Darn, no more fresh Sugarcane Juice? :( Are there any other places in the general area that grind fresh Sugarcane still?

                                  I know Cafe Brasil does it still, but anywhere else? There was one place in Chinatown years ago that my friend took me to...

                                  1. re: exilekiss
                                    JAB Aug 13, 2010 12:39 PM

                                    The Bahn Mi Che Kali on Valley has it.

                                    1. re: JAB
                                      e
                                      exilekiss Aug 14, 2010 08:59 AM

                                      Hi JAB,

                                      Great tip! It's close to Sea Harbour so the next time I'm in the area, I know where to stop for a drink on the way back home. :) Thanks.

                                    2. re: exilekiss
                                      J.L. Aug 14, 2010 01:26 AM

                                      Do you like the Caldo de Cana at Cafe Brasil, Exile? Do they add a touch of lemon like they do in Brazil?

                                      1. re: J.L.
                                        e
                                        exilekiss Aug 14, 2010 09:00 AM

                                        Hi J.L.,

                                        I've never had the Caldo de Cana at Cafe Brasil, sorry. I'll have to try it the next time I'm there (if I can get away from Rio Brasil Cafe :). Have you found any other places locally that make a good version?

                          2. re: exilekiss
                            ipsedixit Aug 12, 2010 10:42 AM

                            I've had the sea turtle soup there once, many moons ago. Was not a fan, but then I'm generally not a fan of sea turtle soup so I might not be a good barometer.

                            Oh, and did you ask them to reserve your shrimp heads for you? They'll deep-fry them and paired with the soy-chili sauce, they're like eating candy ...

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              e
                              exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 01:59 PM

                              Hi ipsedixit,

                              Ack! I forgot to ask them to save the Shrimp Heads again. :( I'm going to make a note right now... I can't wait to try the Fried Shrimp Heads. :) Thanks.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                h
                                huaqiao Aug 12, 2010 02:10 PM

                                The fried heads are an extra special treat when the females still have their eggs in the back of the head and hasn't laid them yet.

                                1. re: huaqiao
                                  J.L. Aug 12, 2010 05:37 PM

                                  Botan ebi roe is a taste that's up there with crab roe.

                                  1. re: huaqiao
                                    e
                                    exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 06:20 PM

                                    Hi huaqiao,

                                    Yes it is. :) Although when there's Roe present, I'd rather eat it poached, off the head, and then let them fry it after. :)

                                    1. re: huaqiao
                                      m
                                      maiweezy Sep 27, 2010 09:56 PM

                                      In my shrimp heads there was the yellow roe, but there also was this raspberry colored vein/liquid substance that was also in the heads. Only in the VERY large shrimps this was present. Maybe my eyes deceived my tastebuds, but it almost tasted like raspberry as well! Do you know what this is?

                                      1. re: maiweezy
                                        ipsedixit Sep 28, 2010 09:35 AM

                                        "but there also was this raspberry colored vein/liquid substance that was also in the heads. Only in the VERY large shrimps this was present. Maybe my eyes deceived my tastebuds, but it almost tasted like raspberry as well! Do you know what this is?"
                                        _______________________

                                        Shrimp brains.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          m
                                          maiweezy Sep 29, 2010 10:37 PM

                                          well then it's official, I love shrimp brain :) thanks!

                                2. re: ipsedixit
                                  raytamsgv Aug 12, 2010 11:23 AM

                                  That's so true. The best measure of those restaurants is how well they make their dinners, not dim sum.

                                3. Porthos Aug 12, 2010 12:32 PM

                                  Before you crown Sea Harbour, try the live alaskan king crab 2 ways when it is back in season at Elite.

                                  When in season, it's readily available at Elite but requires special order at Sea Harbor. The crab 2 ways at Elite was amazing. The legs steamed with garlic, the body sauteed perfectly with ginger and scallions. As good as my all time favorite version at Koi palace in SF.

                                  I had to cancel once at Sea Harbour due to a family emergency after ordering such a beast (cancelled 24 hours in advance). The next time I was there 3 months later, they recognized my name and gave me subpar service because of it. They even mentioned how they were unable to sell said beast and thus lost out.

                                  It was quite low class of them IMO and since then, will not go back to Sea Harbour. I realize its a rare story but it was handled quite poorly.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Porthos
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                                    exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 06:24 PM

                                    Hi Porthos,

                                    My condolences on your experience with the waitstaff at Sea Harbour; that's horrible. :( I don't blame you for not wanting to return, sigh. I agree that sounds petty of them to hold a grudge like that. Bummer.

                                    For Elite, I wrote about it a while back... I've generally enjoyed more dishes, more of the time at Sea Harbour than Elite, but I've never tried the Live King Crab 2 Ways. That sounds lovely. :) Now if I can only find some friends to join me (most of them either prefer Live Giant Shrimp, Abalone, Geoduck and/or Lobster over Crab (but King Crab should sway them over... :).

                                    Also, do you remember the price for Live King Crab? Thanks.

                                    1. re: exilekiss
                                      Porthos Aug 13, 2010 08:53 AM

                                      King crab was around $40 a lb. I remember it being about $5-10/lb cheaper than Sea Harbour. I try to go 7lbs and up since the smaller ones have much less meat in the legs. This is one crustacean where bigger is better. Unlike lobster, the meat is sweeter and not tough in the bigger versions. Caveat is that I've never gone over 10lbs.

                                      Trust me, live king crab trumps any type of shrimp or abalone or lobster (maine, australian, local, or otherwise). The meat is sweeter and more delicate than any of the aforementioned.

                                      If you're ever in the bay area for king crab season, try the version at Koi Palace. The legs are fried salt and pepper style and the body is steamed with garlic and konnyaku noodles. Awesome.

                                      1. re: Porthos
                                        e
                                        exilekiss Aug 13, 2010 10:54 AM

                                        Hi Porthos,

                                        Thanks for the rec. :) You just reminded me of a conversation I had with our waiter at Sea Harbour (on my last visit (w/ their new menu)): They don't require advanced notice on Live King Crab any more. The waiter said they'll get some in (very limited availability) and you just order it if they have it. (But that service snafu you ran into is still unfortunate.)

                                        So for a 7 - 10 pound Live King Crab, roughly how many people did that feed? I'm curious how much of the weight is shell / water and how much final King Crab meat you're left with (just so I know how many of my friends to wrangle to join me :).

                                        The preparation you describe really sounds awesome. Thanks.

                                        1. re: exilekiss
                                          ipsedixit Aug 13, 2010 11:01 AM

                                          A 10 pound King Crab is good for a table of ten, assuming you order other things of course.

                                          That said, I've been known to dust off a 10 pounder by myself with my closest friend easily. That and a plate of fresh pea sprouts and a person lacks nothing else for a good 1 hour or so.

                                          1. re: exilekiss
                                            Porthos Aug 13, 2010 11:04 AM

                                            My entire family eats a lot. So the 7-10 lb crab feeds the 5 of us. We also get a vegetable dish, a chicken dish, and a steamed fish. Obviously we over do it a bit but a 7-10 lb crab should feed 5 comfortably. You can always supplement with other dishes if you have a larger group or if it doesn't look like it'll be enough. There is a very generous amount of meat on a 7-lb king crab though.

                                            Actually, it's not a policy change so much as a policy addendum. I'm guessing that implies you can't order it in advance now and that you can only order it if they have it. Possibly due to said incident. Not sure why their supply is so much more limited than Elite's who has it almost every day during season.

                                            1. re: Porthos
                                              ipsedixit Aug 13, 2010 11:05 AM

                                              By the way, you can also get King Crab on demand at Happy Harbour in Rowland Heights.

                                    2. K K Aug 12, 2010 12:58 PM

                                      Very cool report as usual! I grew up eating poached fresh shrimp and prawns. I remember when I last ate them in Hong Kong aeons ago, some restaurants would add a finer level of detail to provide a bowl of tea with a slice of lemon inside to rinse your fingers (from having to peel the shells),as the hot wet towel/oshibori gets dirty very quickly (or in some lazier cases, disposeable wet napkins). Visitors out of the know probably thought the bowl of finger rinse was drinkable HK style hot lemon tea :-)

                                      If anyone goes to either Elite or Sea Harbor next time, if it is not on the menu, request and try a soy sauce king (豉油王 / See Yau Wong) stir fry prep of lobster, crab, or shrimp and let us know how it tastes or stands out. It's a much more difficult dish to get right than say ginger scallion, even though it is just but soy sauce (maybe garlic) and pure wok stir fry skills. The basis of this probably came from the veggie version of HK style fried noodles, which is basically Soy Sauce King fried noodles...in order for this dish to shine and stand out, it's using the simplest ingredients and a good soy sauce, but more importantly wok stir fry skills to draw them all out.

                                      Here's an example what the crab version might look like (this one is w/garlic)

                                      http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2629/4...

                                      The soy sauce king shrimp prep is the least messy, because if done right you can eat the shells too.

                                      Some might like the salted egg yolk battered crab (and lobster), done in a similar manner to salt and pepper, but this offers a good contrast of savory outside with a natural sweet inside. I'd be curious to see what Elite/Sea Harbor can do with this.

                                      Ten to eleven preps of crab or lobster seems to be pretty much now a standard to be considered ahead of the competition in NorCal and SoCal.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: K K
                                        ipsedixit Aug 12, 2010 01:54 PM

                                        Why is that so difficult in your opinion?

                                        The soy sauce king prep (Mandarin pinying for those who care, "Jiang Yiou Wang") that I've had before both here and in Taiwan definitely didn't taste as clean or well-paired as a gnger/scallion prep.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          K K Aug 12, 2010 03:41 PM

                                          Perhaps you answered the question partially, it was likely not done correctly. Also, if a chef used some commercially available soy sauce straight into the wok, it's not the right prep. Gotta be seasoned (and pre-cooked/prepared in advance), secret sauce, hence "king". Some chefs might do a soy sauce king shrimp, maybe add a hint of sweet/sour via ketchup, worcestershire/A1 (but that really kills it)....or worse case Maggi (which seems to interestingly work with bo luc lac stir fry mignon beef type dishes oddly) which while is MSGlicious, is not the true SSK prep.

                                        2. re: K K
                                          e
                                          exilekiss Aug 12, 2010 06:27 PM

                                          Hi K K,

                                          Thank you. :) Yes! Sea Harbour does provide the bowl of tea with lemon to wash your fingers. *And*, LOL, I had a friend of a friend who had to be stopped from attempting to sip it when it was placed on the table years ago. (^_^)

                                          I didn't see the Soy Sauce King preparation as a choice on the new menu at Sea Harbour, but I'll have to ask about that next time. Thanks for the info and recommendation. :)

                                        3. e
                                          epop Aug 13, 2010 07:29 PM

                                          Bravo, Exilekiss, another great and comprehensive and inspired review.

                                          Read that your favorite dish is also Linguini Vongole. I'm making it in about ten minutes.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: epop
                                            e
                                            exilekiss Aug 14, 2010 09:02 AM

                                            Hi epop,

                                            Thank you for the kind words. Yes, I love Linguine Vongole! :) Nice to hear you had some for dinner. :) (BTW, any local restaurants that you enjoy this dish at? Thanks. :)

                                            1. re: exilekiss
                                              e
                                              epop Aug 14, 2010 10:51 AM

                                              I don't like any of the local restaurants for the Vongole. Sometimes we go to Blue Marlin for their version but it doesn't do it for me. You have a place?

                                              -----
                                              Blue Marlin
                                              27590 Jefferson Ave, Temecula, CA 92590

                                              1. re: epop
                                                e
                                                exilekiss Aug 14, 2010 11:29 PM

                                                Hi epop,

                                                Bummer. I don't have a local recommendation, either. If you find something, please share the love. :) Thanks.

                                                1. re: exilekiss
                                                  e
                                                  epop Aug 15, 2010 01:00 PM

                                                  I now remember that I had a decent one at the Italian place by the playground in the Malibu square, oddly enough. It has been a few years since I had it though.
                                                  I prefer to make it at home b/c I don't trust most restaurants and their shellfish. All best...

                                          2. l
                                            lapizzamaven Sep 13, 2010 01:42 PM

                                            Took a NYer to Sea Harbour last week and she was highly impressed..a new world of Chinese food opened up for her..someone who will now venture beyond Manhattan to Flushing in search of better wares...the pan fried rice noodles might be the best ive ever had..had never even seen it rolled up the way they do...i get it whenever im there...the juicy dumplings(they are mini XLB?) were awesome, the Har Gow, Chinese broc, rice noodle shrimp and pork absolutely delicious...only item that didnt thrill me was the eggplant stuffed w/shrimp paste....i saw it on another table and it looked awesome but the stuffing was odd in taste and texture..rubbery? no big deal tho, so much excellent food. cant wait to go back...no wait and we arrived a couple minutes before noon tho it was full...

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: lapizzamaven
                                              n
                                              ns1 Sep 13, 2010 04:37 PM

                                              agreed on both counts re: shrimp w/ eggplant + mini XLB

                                              1. re: lapizzamaven
                                                e
                                                exilekiss Sep 14, 2010 12:49 AM

                                                Hi lapizzamaven,

                                                Very nice! Thanks for the report back. :) I'm glad your NY friend enjoyed Sea Harbour. I've never had the Eggplant dish you describe there, but thanks for the feedback.

                                                If you get a chance, you should try some of their Live Seafood dishes, which are wonderful (especially the Poached Giant Live Shrimp :).

                                                1. re: exilekiss
                                                  l
                                                  lapizzamaven Sep 14, 2010 08:32 AM

                                                  Id have to go with a serious live seafood veteran,exilekiss...i havent yet grown accustomed to shrimp heads etc..id love those shrimp fried but peeled and guillotined...maybe i'll be braver one day.

                                                  1. re: lapizzamaven
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                                                    exilekiss Sep 14, 2010 10:19 AM

                                                    Hi lapizzamaven,

                                                    Totally empathize with you. :) If the Shrimp Heads are too extreme for you, you might start simpler with their:

                                                    * Live Red Grouper (Fish) - You don't have to fuss with the bones (there are very few) and they can filet it tableside for you.
                                                    * Live Crab
                                                    * Live Lobster

                                                    Just something to consider. :)

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